By Meghan Hall
Like many cities in the Bay Area, Fremont formed as the outgrowths of other townships were combined and has experienced unprecedented levels of growth since the tech boom began in the 1990s. While today the city is known for its proximity to Silicon Valley and as a hub for telecommunications and manufacturing companies, there is one thing that city officials and community members acknowledge is missing: a centrally-located downtown. As part of an effort to create a civic and social center for Fremont, the city plans to break ground in the summer of 2019 on the Civic Center Master Plan Project.
The project will include a new, 13,400-square-foot downtown community center and a one acre civic center plaza on the corner of Capitol Avenue and State Street and is just the first part of a four-phase plan for the 5.7 acre, city-owned property, which will eventually include a new City Hall, parking structure and additional buildings for commercial or office uses. The city is working with San Francisco-based STUDIOS Architecture to complete the project.
“There’s a civic heart and a social heart to the city, and Fremont has a great amount of pride,” said Jason McCarthy, an architect for STUDIOS working on the project. “They don’t have a center, and this is in the sense the city giving the community that center. They really want to make the downtown district vibrant.”
“It’s a bigger sort of campus component than just the community center,” echoed Erik Sueberkrop, partner at STUDIOS. “The plaza over time will be the center of a larger constellation of buildings between the garage, the administration building and other components.”
While designs for the Civic Center are preliminary, McCarthy says that the goal is to make the center versatile in order to accommodate a wide variety of programs. The building’s largest room—to be named Downtown Hall—will include a large platform and projection screen and at capacity can see 300 people, while the plaza outside will include seating elements and space for food trucks and pop-up retail. Grass space and an outdoor stage are also part of the plans.
“Focusing on Phase One, the new downtown community center will be a modern pavilion that sets the urban context for downtown, while still being warm, open and inviting to the community,” said Cliff Nguyen, the urban initiatives manager for the Civic Center project and the City of Fremont.
McCarthy, along with Suberkrop, emphasized that the design of the finished product will be warm and welcoming. STUDIOS plans to use durable, sustainable materials, but McCarthy admitted that it was still too early on in the process to disclose what specific finishes would be incorporated into the space.
“The city wanted us to reflect the culture of Fremont in terms of it being very forward looking, celebrating technology and sustainability, and very friendly,” said McCarthy. “To reflect that we’re purposely proposing a project with playful elements in its design.”
While Fremont waits for the project’s completion, the Town Fair Shopping Center had been demolished late in 2017 and replaced with a temporary plaza that is scheduled to host a variety of special events, maker spaces and community classes. Nguyen expects the “pop-up” plaza to open next month. Scheduled events for the space include “Fremont Street Eats,” a weekly food truck event, and “Try it Tuesdays,” where visitors can partake in various fitness-related activities.
According to Nguyen, Phase One of the project is expected to cost approximately $25 million dollars. While the full cost of the entire project will not be known until future phases have been approved, Nguyen says the City is looking into funding alternatives for Phases Two through Four in order to combat rapidly rising development and construction costs.
“Construction Costs continue to escalate with no end in sight,” said Nguyen. “Phase One of the Civic Center project will be built on a no-debt model, meaning the City will be using existing funds in its possession from selling previous surplus assets to construct the project without impacting the general fund.”
Both Sueberkrop and McCarthy echoed the Nguyen’s sentiments about the price of the project, but commended the City for its efforts on creating a well-designed building while keeping costs in check.
“They’re trying to be very judicious and smart about doing the project at a pace that supports good design and price,” said McCarthy.
Anticipated delivery for Phase One of the Civic Center project is the beginning of 2021.
City officials also hope that the Civic Center project will act as a catalyst for the development of Capital Avenue and Fremont’s downtown. Currently, Locale @ State Street, mixed-use development with 157 units and 21,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, is under construction, and according to Nguyen, the Civic Center project has helped to spur additional mixed-use projects around Capitol Avenue.